Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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April 3rd
The Marshall Plan
At the close of World War II , Europe lay in shambles. Cities and factories were shattered, businesses had disappeared, and countless people faced hunger. Economies sat on the verge of total collapse. The poverty and desperation that threatened the continent made fertile breeding grounds for would-be dictators.

Americans were weary from war, but they also understood that they had to do something to help. On April 3, 1948, President Truman signed into law a program that provided billions of dollars in aid to help Europe get back on its feet. Dubbed “the Marshall Plan” for Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who first announced it, the program was a massive act of compassion as well as a shrewd strategy to keep Communism at bay, support democratic governments, and build strong trading partners.

The United States offered the aid not just to its former allies but to its former enemies, such as Germany. It also offered to include the Soviet Union, a proposal Joseph Stalin rejected. The Soviet dictator refused to allow Eastern European countries to participate. (Czechoslovakia’s foreign minister publicly expressed interest in the plan, and a short time later he was found dead in front of his house.)

But Western European nations welcomed the offer. The British foreign secretary called it “a lifeline to sinking men.” Thirteen billion dollars in aid poured into Western Europe to help buy machinery, modernize factories, repair railroads, and rebuild cities. With American help, Western Europe was soon on its way to a remarkable recovery.

If it was not “the most unsordid act in history” – Winston Churchill reserved that title for the United States’ earlier Lend-Lease program – the Marshall Plan was surely an act of enormous generosity. Never before had one nation done so much to help mend a war-torn world.

American History Parade
1860
The Pony Express begins service between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California.

1865
Union forces capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.

1882
The outlaw Jesse James is shot and killed in St. Joseph, Missouri, by Robert Ford, a member of his own gang.

1948
President Truman signs legislation establishing the Marshall Plan.

1973
In New York City, Motorola engineer Martin Cooper makes the first call on a portable, handheld cell phone, which he’d just invented.

1974
One of the worst tornado outbreaks in U.S. history strikes, with 148 twisters hitting thirteen states, killing 330 people.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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